SNIA SDC 2019: SMB, NVMe, Persistent Memory, Performance, and More!

The iXsystems Engineering Team arrived at the Storage Networking Industry Association’s Storage Developer Conference in Santa Clara, California at the end of September, FreeNAS Mini in hand. We were ready to attend, present, and participate in one of the most intense storage-related technical conferences of the year! With highly technical breakout sessions, visionary general sessions, thought-provoking birds-of-a-feather sessions, and the networking-heavy SMB Interoperability Lab, we certainly had our agendas filled. This year we presented three breakout sessions and participated heavily in the SMB Interoperability Lab.

One of the largest breakout tracks at SDC is always the SMB track. The SDC conference is, in fact, the successor of the CIFS Conference, having merged with it back in 2006. Two themes in the track were security and performance. The samba team is moving to disable SMB1 by default in version 4.11. Microsoft has also been aggressive about disabling SMB1 in Windows for a while now. There is ongoing work in samba to improve performance and simplify the VFS layer, including utilizing some newer handle-based syscalls. Other improvements for handling contention on files or directories accessed by many clients were discussed. All of this will result in even more improvements in the TrueNAS family of products.

In addition to staying on top of the latest developments and technical updates in the SMB protocol and samba project, iXsystems provided a FreeNAS Mini for the SMB Interoperability Lab and actively participated in interop testing between vendors. This is an invaluable event that allows many vendors to cross-test their products and ensure SMB implementations are compatible.

The iXsystems performance team presented at three sessions this year. Ryan McKenzie presented Best Practices for OpenZFS L2ARC in the Era of NVMe to an enthusiastic room and showed that predictions from over ten years ago in the ZFS code have finally come true with NVMe technology available in our TrueNAS M50! Nick Principe presented So, You Want to Build a Storage Performance Testing Lab? to a full room of performance enthusiasts, discussing the nuances of what aspects of load generation hardware matter for different kinds of performance testing. He also co-presented Introducing the AI/ML and Genomics Workloads from the SPEC Storage Subcommittee with Ken Cantrell from NetApp, where they introduced the latest development work on two new industry standard workloads to be released with the next SPEC Storage benchmark.

Another key focus at the conference was on high-performance nonvolatile storage and memory – both NVMe and Persistent Memory. This ranged from programming techniques to reduce latency and increase performance over NVMe in Ben Walker’s 10 Million I/Ops From a Single Thread session to the new EDSFF form factor in Mike Scriber’s Next Gen Performance & Efficiency with EDSFF and QLC talk. There were also sessions on the upcoming NVMe 2.0 standard, which is a significantly refactored NVMe specification that better reflects how NVMe is being used in the marketplace, with the aim to allow new products to be brought to market more efficiently – and, importantly, the best path vendors can take to implement the newer specifications in their products.

On the persistent memory side of things, talks ranged from programming approaches to make the best use of persistent memory, to a performance review of Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory performance, and even to a review of the state of emerging memories from Jim Handy and Tom Coughlin in their Emerging Memory Update 2019: What a Difference a Year Makes! session.

Other interesting topics included Seagate’s Multi-Actuator HDDs Performance and Integration Considerations where there was a lively debate on how best to present a multi-actuator drive to the operating system. With all the attention on NVMe, one could forget about SAS were it not for Cameron Brett’s talk on how SAS Rules the Data Center where he provided details on the SAS-4 standard, pushing SAS to “24G” speed, and laid out the roadmap for SAS-5. The standout educational session from a pure performance analysis perspective was Dave Holmstrom’s talk Latency is more than just a Number: The Data Science of QoS where he gave a deep explanation of techniques to identify and understand latency transitions in performance data.

The iXsystems team learned a lot at SDC this year and had a great time presenting sessions and participating in the SMB Interoperability Lab. We brought back a lot of ideas that we’re excited to put into expanding and improving future versions of FreeNAS and TrueNAS!

Hopefully, we’ll see you at the SNIA Storage Developer Conference in 2020!

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